The Bushmen Vs The Romans


The Bushmen Vs. The Romans Essay, Research Paper

The Bushmen vs. Romans

In this paper I compare the non literate society of the African Bushmen to the ancient agricultural society of Rome. I specifically compare the human institution of family. The other institutions are religion, education, economy, and politics. These five institutions are ways that all humans meet their needs. They connect all humans.

The men and women of the Bushmen, play two different roles in the family. Men provide for the family when in reality the food the wife scavenge sustains the family. The men are the hunters of the family. The women are the gatherers. They find nuts, berries and other vegetation. Whatever the wife brings home from a day of scavenging is hers to share with her family. When a man comes back from the hunt with meat, it is divided up it portions and distributed throughout the tribe.

The parents job is to provide food and nurture their children. The children are the main concern for Bushmen parents. For example, in the video the father gets baby birds to make broth for his child. He says that he nor his wife will drink any of the broth. Bushmen parents are very loving as seen when they play with their children and take special pains to entertain them. Perhaps one motivation behind the parents being concerned primarily about the baby is because they want the baby to grow strong so as to carry the family line in a good way.

The children start looking to carry the family line after their rite of passage to adulthood. For boys the rite of passage comes after the boy s killing of a large animal. This shows that he can help his community, which acts as a bigger family. A girls rite of passage comes around the time she is able to gather and care for children and she then marries. The wedding ceremony is probably not very elaborate although some magical elements are probably used to bring the new couple good luck. Couples are married for the rest of their lives after the ceremony.

In the Bushmen society there are extended families. This means that not just husband and wife and sons and daughters live together. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. live together.

Lastly the community functions as a family. This is a very important part of family life. This ensures that every person in the community will get provided for. The people unable to hunt will get their share. Also, others without children play with other s kids. And, if something were to happen to parents their children will be provided for.

The Bushmen family is relatively small, having 10 -50 members. Perhaps this is why the Bushmen are nomadic. Every family has the same worth, every person is equal. Roles are defined already not chosen and the peer pressure of the close group keeps people going and the tribe functioning.

Family was a very important part of the society in Rome. Since there weren t many activities to do at night the family stayed at home and entertained themselves. The women had nothing to do with providing for the family. They stayed home and learned the ways of their home. The males were the providers of the family. The oldest male in the household was the man of the house. Everything in the house belonged to him, including the salaries of whatever the other male members made. As the alpha male he had control over the life and death of his sons and daughters. He could choose to terminate babies. For the poor this meant fewer mouths to feed, for the rich it meant fewer heirs to divide the money between.

It was a woman s job to care for the children. In Rome there was a period of childlessness. Women did not want children. They used contraceptives, performed abortions or left their children to die out in the cold. This seems to be the opposite of the Bushmen whose goal was to fully care for their children.

If and when the children became adults they were married. The marriages were arranged by the head of the house. Women were married around ages 12-15 years and males ages 14-17 years. This could have very well been the rite of passage into adulthood. The ceremonies were formal and not very elaborate. The woman usually wore a special dress to show the specialness of the occasion. In the ceremony certain rituals were performed to ensure the couples welfare as a new family. A modern aspect of Roman marriage was the availability of divorce. Only men held this power at first but it was later granted to affluent women.

The Romans lived with extended families. Grandparents, uncles, and aunts could all live in the same place. These families did much to entertain themselves. They played musical instruments and told stories.

One thing that is clearly different from the two cultures is that the Roman community did not act as a family like the Bushmen did. Their community would have been a very large one seeing as Rome had 600,000-800,000 citizens. There would be no way to see that every citizen was provided for. Unless, that is, if everyone was brought to an equal status. There was a clear line between the rich and the poor in Rome. Possessions were very important to the Romans. You got many privileges if you were rich and none if you were poor. Each family was very different because of these privileges.

The development of agriculture clearly caused a huge impact on life to these people living in these societies. Because food was able to be produced at will, specialization of labor occurred. No longer were their only hunters and gatherers. These positions were no longer needed for the survival of the population. People were found with lots of time on their hands. During this free time they developed ideas and concepts which led to the interesting and varied culture. They created culture during this time. The advanced agricultural cultures were more varied.

Another important change that came about with the advance of agricultural society was that the community no longer had to be nomadic. Their food didn t control them anymore. Before, as hunters and gatherers they had to follow or keep moving to find a food source to keep alive. Now their food source is in one area and they have to permanently stay by it. This led to building permanent living structures.

While culture was being crated values were changing. Before, as hunters and gatherers every person played a role in the community. Each person was depended on and appreciated. Then because all the people in the community were not needed for gathering and/or hunting, specialization of labor occurred. Social classes or roles were developed and sex roles transformed.


Cowell, F.R. Everyday in Ancient Rome. Great Britain: B.T. Batsford Ltd., 1966

Casson Lionel. Daily Life in Ancient Rome. New York: American Heritage Publishing Co.. 1975

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